Primary care practices are facing significant financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving 20% of practices without the resources they need to remain open beyond the next four weeks.
Close to 46% of the over 2,600 primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants surveyed were unsure if their practice will have enough cash to keep their practices open for the next four weeks. About 42% also reported concerns about layoffs and furloughed staff, with an overwhelming majority 85% noticing sharp decreases in patient volume.
Primary care practices are hoping to receive external financing support to keep their businesses open. Practice is likely to apply for a Small Business Administration loan in the next four weeks.
The Small Business Administration also reported that it is no longer able to accept new applications for the Payroll Protection Program. The program was a key effort from the federal government to keep small businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Policymakers are currently devising a fourth coronavirus stimulus package, which could include $450 billion for small businesses and hospitals hurt by COVID-19, national news sources reported earlier this week.
However, primary care practices also need help with virtual care in order to survive the economic hit from COVID-19, the survey showed.
In the survey, 65% of respondents reported having patients who cannot use virtual health because they lack a computer or internet access.
Additionally, full-scale use of virtual platforms is still limited, with just 34% relying on the majority use of video, 15% on e-visits, and 19% on patient portal use. In comparison, 48% of primary care clinicians conduct the majority of visits by phone, the survey found.
Overall, 22% of practices reported no use of video visits, 42% reported no use of e-visits, and 28% does not use patient portals.
But even practices leveraging virtual care to alleviate patient volume challenges during the pandemic are unsure they will get paid for the services, they were uncertain they will receive reimbursement for virtual care.
About 44% of respondents were also unsure if their practice would get reimbursed for conducting visits over the phone.
Medicare has lifted restrictions related to virtual visits for physicians during a national emergency. But Medicare’s decision to reimburse practices for virtual care for beneficiaries does not guarantee reimbursement among private payers.